Guelph Street Garden update with Proposed Pavilion information

At the MHBPNA Blog we welcome guests writing posts and here is one about the Guelph Street Garden. 

Guelph Street Community Garden - How to Water a Garden without Water?

If you haven't been to the Uniroyal Goodrich Park on Guelph Street lately, you will be amazed by the community garden that is being tended, weeded, nurtured and harvested there. Now that the garden is fully planted, a fence constructed, and a shed procured, the gardeners are working to solve the biggest challenge: WATER! 

Gardeners have discussed building a structure at the park that would give us a roof for rainwater collection. We approached the Parks Department staff from the City of Kitchener to discuss this option and received positive direction that we can pursue this project. 

In case you're wondering, we have already exhausted every possible option we could think of - filling our water storage cubes by hose from a neighbouring tap, trucking in water, filling from the fire hydrant, etc. We 'ran dry' on all of these options. In the end, rain water really is the best for watering a garden. 

The image below is a sketch drawing of the proposed rainwater collection structure. The design would allow for additional uses by everyone in the neighbourhood e.g. community events, garden workshops or neighbourhood potlucks. It could be a multipurpose structure that encourages more people to use the park for small gatherings and events. And don't worry, formal dress is not required in order to use the pavilion!

As we prepare a grant application to fund the building of the structure (constructed of wood frame & steel roof) we want to get input from the neighbourhood - send is your additional ideas, comments, feedback and questions. Post them in the comment section below or email them to the Guelph Street Community Garden (guelphstreetgarden@gmail.com). Please send your feedback or comments by Wednesday October 2 as we are preparing the grant application for submission by October 15. 

Even better, drop by the "Open Garden" event on Saturday September 28 between 3 - 5pm. We'll have copies of the proposed structure and you can share your ideas in person. 

We look forward to hearing from you and see you on Saturday at the Guelph Street Garden, Uniroyal Goodrich Park, Guelph Street.


Here is a rough overhead representation of the garden area (blue) and the proposed pavilion (red).


Our programs begin at the Breithaupt Centre

Our Neighbourhood Association is sponsoring Memoir Writing, Vegetarian Cooking and two Lego programs at the Breithaupt Centre this fall (in addition to all the programs run by the city).

Our programs were advertised in the city's Leisure magazine, on this Blog and in our latest newsletter.

Lego and Vegetarian Cooking are run by volunteers and any profits go back to our Neighbourhood Association so we can offer programs, services and support to our residents.

In the Lego program from a kind of chaos:

can come sublime order:

Imagine what they will be able to make after 8 weeks!


Margaret Avenue Bridge Press Release

Margaret Avenue bridge to be torn down and replaced

KITCHENER – With the public’s safety top of mind, today Kitchener City Council approved staff’s recommendation that the Margaret Avenue bridge be removed as soon as possible, and that an environmental assessment (EA), predesign and design of a new bridge also be initiated immediately.
“It is essential to keep this project moving forward in a timely manner. Right now, this boils down to tearing down the bridge and starting the EA and bridge-design process,” said Counc. Berry Vrbanovic, who asked staff to prepare a project timeline, and opportunities to expedite the project, for the end of October during the community and infrastructure services committee meeting earlier today.
The bridge was closed in June, following a structural engineers’ report recommending it be closed immediately. A peer review of the initial recommendation also supported the findings. A consultant evaluated short- and long-term alternatives and costs for the bridge; the report was made available to staff in late August.
Staff recommends the funds from existing federal gas tax sources be reallocated for the removal of the existing bridge, which will cost about $250,000, and for the EA and predesign to replace it, which would cost about $150,000. Funding sources for a new bridge will be considered during the 2014 budget process.
In an effort to speed up the process, the city’s chief administrative officer, Jeff Willmer, was given the authority to approve the tender for removing the bridge, and also report to council on the decision at the next regularly scheduled council meeting.
“Even though this is unfortunate, with the bridge the way it is now, we could also look at this as an opportunity,” said Counc. Bil Ioannidis, chair of the committee. “With the new Weber Street overpass, and the light rail transit plan, we can create a whole new transit corridor.”
Kitchener Utilities is working on alternatives and costs to replace or support a 100mm diameter natural gas main that crosses the bridge and will fund this work out of capital reserve accounts. The main is the primary feed to the Bridgeport area and needs to be in place to avoid natural gas outages in Bridgeport over the winter.


Programs and more Programs!

Our Neighbourhood Association is sponsoring several programs this fall at the Breithaupt Centre. Full descriptions of them are available in our newsletter that is being distributed right now.

But they are also listed in the City of Kitchener's Leisure Magazine on page 87. 

In case you do not have that magazine at your fingertips, here they are (click on the image to enlarge):

You can register for any program at the Breithaupt Centre in person, or online at the City of Kitchener's WEBReg site.


152 Shanley Update #2

This is the second article discussing some background to 152 Shanley (first article is here). As mentioned in the first article, the building is coming up for a tax sale; the owner owes outstanding taxes, money to the city for work done on the property (snow removal, tree trimming, garbage removal) and money owing to the Ministry of the Environment for various assessment work. The total amount is over $800.000.

These articles are written with information provided in our meeting with the city in August.

Here are some issues that neighbours have asked and complained about:

--Bricks have fallen off the side. Does this mean the building is going to fall down?

In 2012 a few bricks fell off the top of the wall and the top also fell in slightly. This event was documented in an earlier Blog posting. Some neighbours have also reported that "someone they know" was inside the building at some point and a couple of support columns were apparently unstable. 

One of the people at our meeting works in the city building inspection area. He reported that the reason the top of the wall lost bricks and fell inwards was because of the deterioration of the roof, and not anything structural with the building itself. The roof had several holes and was structurally weak around the side where the damage occurred. Since this happened, the owner has repaired much of the roof so no more deterioration will occur. The owner also erected a fence around that area to prevent people from walking next to the wall.

The city has also hired a structural engineer to look inside the building and they have determined it is structurally sound. There have been some repairs made inside by the owner, so there are no columns about to fall down. 

--In places the surface of the building look like brick is falling apart, are you sure this is safe?

The walls are 12 inches thick, so despite some of the exterior brick peeling, the structure is sound.

--What is the owner allowed to do with the building? Can he 'sell stuff' like we have seen? Can he run a business out of it?

There are many issues here, but the main one relates to zoning. The building was originally zoned "mixed use" but that has lapsed due to time and the contamination problem. No retail activity is allowed there. The owner is allowed to use it for storage and he can invite people in but they are not allowed to live there.

In August 2013 the owner was selling some of the building's contents off the back loading dock area. ByLaw was contacted about this, and their answer was that everyone is allowed one or two yard sales a year and they allowed the owner this right so he could sell some of the building's contents. Apparently he continued to sell various goods more than two times and after ByLaw was alerted, he was forced to stop.

If residents believe there is illegal activity occurring in the building, they are encouraged to call ByLaw (or possibly Police). However, ByLaw is overburdened with various complaints as discussed in this Record Article. They are not always able to respond immediately. And because of the time and expenses they have already devoted to the building, they will not perform actions like mowing the lawn or cleaning up garbage which is the owner's responsibility. They will always take people's complaints and contact the building owner and they will undertake action if public safety is threatened (e.g. sidewalks are filled with icy snow, materials are falling from building in an unsafe manner etc.). 

There are ongoing concerns about garbage piling up behind the building and glass and wood from the boarded up windows falling and there is no simple solution. ByLaw has been very helpful with many of these issues when they are alerted, but they have limited resources.

--Why doesn't the City just buy the building? Why doesn't the city buy the building and tear it down?

The city is currently owed around $800,000 in taxes. If they bought the building they would be rewarding the owner for failing to pay taxes and they would be responsible for cleaning up the contamination, which will cost much more money. The building cannot simply be torn down because then the contamination would still be there. 

The best solution would be for a developer to purchase the building and develop it into a condo property (or other commercial enterprise). It is in a prime real estate area within walking distance of the planned transit hub. The developer would clean up the contamination under the property and have some of those expenses offset through various Brownfield incentives. 

The city is committed to working with any developer to make the property's development a success. They have proven their commitment to improving Kitchener by working with may businesses downtown and throughout the city.

It is not certain that anyone will purchase the building when it comes up for tax sale. However, there has been interest in the building in the past despite the many issues attached to it. So the MHBPNA is hopeful something will happen in the next few months.

We have made an effort to address the main questions asked about this property. If you have additional questions or see clarification, please email us at mhbpna@gmail.com

Ted P.